Friday, 27 November 2009

Violent Cop

"Beat" Takeshi Kitano's directorial debut, in which our hero stomps around town like a bear with a sore head, bitch-slapping everyone in sight.

Violent Cop was originally conceived as a comedy, before Kitano re-wrote it as a drama, fearing an international audience would miss the subtlety of his comedy acting. I'm not convinced it was completely re-written though - Kitano, accompanied by a theme tune that sounds like something out of Laurel and Hardy, deadpans his way through acts of casual violence, defying you to take it seriously. From head-butting a teenager in his bedroom, to repeatedly slapping a drug dealer in the toilets of a bar, to kicking the shit out of his own sidekick, the violence is unnecessary to the point of farce.

The film's plot is thin at best. Kitano plays Azuma, a poor man's Dirty Harry; a renegade cop dragged into a low-level corruption case involving a small-time dealer called Nito, whose supply line leads back to the police. The case, like Azuma's job, is incidental and he becomes embroiled in a personal vendetta with Nito's henchman, an equally sociopathic nutjob. The film plays out as a classic revenge tragedy, amassing an impressive body count along the way. The characters are little more than cut-outs; a backdrop for the exposition of Azuma's psychosis.

While it's far from Kitano's best work - probably his worst in fact - the seeds of his unique visual style are sown in Violent Cop. But the still, lingering shots, interspersed with explosive violence, which would be used to such devastating effect in later films, are largely farcical here.


Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 1989

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Ring 2

Truly chilling this is not. Nakata's follow up to his modern masterpiece is a damp squib. It has a constant feeling of the morning after the party - a jumbled and unnecessary backstory to the original Ring that seems like it was assembled out of scraps from the cutting room floor.

It starts out promisingly enough, with a palpable air of dread hanging over proceedings, but it never kicks on; a washed out, glacially paced narrative is punctuated with moments of horror that are little more than shadows of the original film - tension is built before a payoff which is neither original nor particularly frightening.

The film culminates in a faintly ludicrous last act in which an odd assortment of characters including Mai, Sadako's father and a local professor attempt to syphon Sadako into a swimming pool using Reiko's son Yoichi as a conduit. Then things get really weird and Mai finds herself inside the infamous well, Yoichi on her back, scrambling to get away from a dodgy animatronic Sadako that looks like something from Jason and the Argonauts (complete with Homeric warning not to look back upon the underworld). A-ha! I thought, so this is how the well-dwelling Sadako survived for 30 years - she feeds on poor unfortunates who fall into her lair through holes in reality that she engineers - anticipating some grisly grand finale now. Disappointingly though, as she reaches Mai, we just get a cut to her sad papier mache face intoning the line 'Why are you the only one to be saved'? before falling back into the murky depths. Which is kind of a vignette of the whole film.

リング 2
Dir. Hideo Nakata, 1999